Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Holly and the Ivy – bits and pieces

It was a very odd Christmas Octave for me this year; being only partly on duty, and suffering from an intermittently painful and swollen arm, I’m afraid not all masses were able to be offered (out here in the countryside orthodox priestly cover is not that easy to come by, particularly at busy holiday periods) and the offices by force of circumstance ended up more often than not being recited in my study. As I said to someone in the parish (and I really hope it wasn’t misunderstood) I never expected to spend the whole of Christmas plastered! Still, I go back to the fracture clinic on Tuesday and, I hope, there will be some progress towards recovery.

An interesting, if bizarre, story yesterday concerning St Nicholas of Myra, or to the secular world at large, Santa Claus.
“Top officials in Turkey say the country is considering requesting the return of St Nicholas's remains from Italy so they may be placed at a museum to be built at his birthplace.”
Just in case we are under any illusions here, what is being suggested is the return of the body of a Christian Saint from its sacred resting place in order to be placed, for touristic reasons, in a secular museum in a predominantly muslim (I know, Ataturk – whatever…) country which has in innumerable ways, even in its recent past, persecuted the Christian religion, tried to tamper with and destroy valuable archaeological evidence and still denies the Armenian genocide - not to mention the entire history of  the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the end of the Christian Roman Empire! St Nicholas wasn’t Turkish; the Turks simply now occupy the same geographical space. So perhaps not? I had to look at the calendar to make sure it really was January 1st rather than 1st April.

But what is really perplexing me now is this question: when is the right time to take down domestic Christmas decorations? Traditionally (in Britain anyway) the time to do this was Twelfth Night, the Eve of the Epiphany. I have to admit I’m a little confused as to the timing now that, as this year, the Epiphany itself is often transferred to the nearest Sunday, and the Christmas Season itself ends with the Baptism of the Lord (January 10th this year).
I suppose, then, it will have to be the Baptism; although Kate firmly belongs to the “I wish it could be Christmas everyday” school of thought and absolutely hates having to put things away for another year. Having said that, trees and greenery do tend to be somewhat blasted by modern central heating long before the end of Christmastide, at whatever point one dates it.
Following the medieval custom (an Anglo-Catholic revival?), our cribs tend to stay up (in the house and church) until Candlemas, Magi still in place.
Perhaps being part of an ecclesial anomaly, I love these minor inconsistencies and ‘untidynesses’ which stem from a truly organic Catholic tradition and culture. Long may they remain – even if we become a little ‘ecclesially tidier’ in the future!

In honour of the decorations (or, rather, what they represent!) this is a traditional offering, the Holly and the Ivy.

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